Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. We continue with a look at the safeties.
The entire secondary has been a mess for so long that a total overhaul was entirely warranted. While we are all critical of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and his expert coverage of empty space, his poor angles, and his two-hand touch approach to tackling, it’s worth remembering that he was orders of magnitude better than most of his battery mates like Kentrell Brice, who is barely an NFL-caliber player.
Safety is gaining in importance in the modern game, as the position now requires players who excel in coverage and tackling. The ideal safety has the coverage skills of a corner while still thumping like a linebacker, and until this season, that profile was often reversed. Brian Gutekunst struck in the draft and in free agency, shoring up the position, and turning a colossal weakness into an above average unit.
Starters: Darnell Savage, Adrian Amos
Savage was selected with the 21st pick in the draft, and it’s easy to see why he was a first rounder. He is among the best athletes on the team, and stood out on the combine explosion drills. That athletic ability showed up early in the season when Savage was seemingly everywhere on the field at once, cleaning up short completions, filling on run defense, and chasing down fast receivers.
Savage did have some rookie struggles as his aggressive nature could occasionally get him out of position, allowing big gains. He is also a tad undersized for the position, and he missed two games, and was clearly injured in several others. It’s clear Savage has the talent to be truly special, but Bob Sanders was a common comp for him when he was selected, and that’s been true in all of the good ways, as well as the bad.
While Savage may yet be a star, Adrian Amos served the veteran role of old reliable. His ceiling is merely good, but after what the Packers have been through, merely good is great. Amos is among the surest tacklers on the team, he, unlike Savage, is rarely out of position, and when moving downhill, few are better. Amos does struggle in coverage occasionally, but he was more than up to the task of taking on tight ends and linebackers, and contributed a few of the season’s biggest plays with some timely interceptions. Amos is on a team-friendly deal that runs through 2022, his age 29 season (if the Packers want it to). He has been exactly as advertised.
Backups: Ibraheim Campbell, Will Redmond, Raven Greene
It’s a shame that Raven Greene was unable to return for the Packer playoff game against San Francisco. While it’s unlikely he would have made the difference as the Packers were completely outplayed, he is exactly the type of well-rounded safety you need to counter Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Greene was brilliant in small sample sizes before being lost for the year with an injury. Hopefully he can build on that performance going forward.
Ibraheim Campbell has been bouncing around the league since 2015, and you can see why teams keep taking chances on him as he brings a unique combination of size and speed to the table. The dream of the “Big Dime” is high on Mike Pettine’s wish list, and Campbell would seem to fit the bill. While he wasn’t outright bad in the role, he also didn’t impress, and the Packers continued to rotate a variety of safeties and corners through the “Big Dime” spot. Campbell is a fine depth piece who won’t embarrass himself in a pinch, but the team knows his ceiling at this point.
Will Redmond is a former third round pick of the 49ers, and you can occasionally still see flashes of the talent. He was the most reliable backup post-Greene, and appears to be a savvy player. As depth, you could do worse.
Overall grade: B
The defense still has plenty of issues, but the safeties held up their end of the bargain, and if Savage can stay healthy, and develop more discipline in the back end, this unit could be something special. Amos signed for his prime, and the duo should continue to develop chemistry and cohesion. They could use some additional depth as Mike Pettine loves to go light, but for the first time in forever, they have a solid foundation to build off of.